Day 1 Tea: a lower jiao warming, blood and Ki Qi nourishing and ever-so-slightly Blood moving herbal tea. I made it originally to ease menstrual cramps, starting with Yarrow as my chief herb. I have had this blend around for a while, but am sharing it with a customer for the first time and really, like really, enjoying making a new batch. I am using a mix of purchased rosebuds and rose petals I have harvested from Portland.
Milky oats have been added to support the Kidneys (capital ‘K’ means a Chinese medicine concept and function), because I originally made this for someone with dysmennorhea with underlying Kidney Qi Xu (Deficiency), and I find Milky Oats to support the adrenals quite nicely. Grains are also mineral-rich, which can help reduce crampy pain and spasms. Sometimes during day 1 or longer, digestion can be messed up. Loose stools, upset stomach, crampy intestines along with the uterus. It is not fun. Milky Oats can help soothe the digestive tract, too.
Let’s see…what other glorious herbs are in here?
Rose Hips, Raspberry leaf, Cinnamon and Ginger, Hawthorne berries, Peony, and the blood-regulating Yarrow. It’s sweet, floral, tart, a little spicy and warm. Yum!
Herbal sitz baths; here is one type of bath that I have seen work time and time again, particularity for genito-urinary purposes. Sitz baths are pretty much exactly like they sound – a bath that you sit in. Sitting in a bath is actually quite different than laying in a bath, however. A sitz bath covers the hips and pelvis, while the legs and torso are not immersed in the bath. This posture ensures that the blood flow of the body is concentrated around the area in the water.
I attempted to make directions with specific quantities of water and herbal infusion, but had to stop because each sitz bath is a little different. That being said, here is a solid starting place:
- Add 3 ounces of dried herbs to just boiled water in a large pot with a lid. Steep for 20-30 minuets, covered. Like with other herbal baths, straining is optional and is dependent upon personal preferences. Do you like bits of re-hydrated herbs floating among your bath water and possibly sticking to you when you leave the bath, or would that bother you?
- Pour the herbal infusion into a bin/sitz bath. Add tap water to adjust water temperature. Hot water is generally used, but alternating between hot and cold is also recommended. A cold or room temperature sitz can be quite therapeutic as well, especially if there is a hot, itchy or inflammatory condition.
- Lower yourself down in the bath carefully, and soak for 20-30 mins. It is a smart idea to try your sitz bath out before adding the water, to make sure it is possible to get in and out easily. Don’t hesitate to ask loved ones for a hand. Fold up a towel to sit in the sitz bath to make it as comfortable as possible.
- If no infection present, the water may be reheated and used again – or use the bath at room temperature.
- Use as frequently as needed, once a day during an acute situation, every other day or weekly for health maintenance.
When I started out as a doula, I read about sitz baths for healing the perineum after birth, but I never heard of anyone actually using one. At one of the birthing hospitals in Duluth, I noticed a locked door with a sign on it that said “Sitz Bath”. I inquired with a nurse about the “Sitz Bath” room, she said there was a indeed a special sitz bath tub in there, but she never heard of anyone using it. Here is the sitz bath that eventually came up with, it was the one I used most with doula clients, friends and sold to midwives:
Postpartum Sitz Bath
- 3 tablespoons comfrey herb (root and leaf mixed)
- 3 tablespoons yarrow
- 3 tablespoons uva ursi
I chose comfery because of its soothing, tissue healing properties. I am in the works on writing a post about the constituents of time-honored Symphytum officinale, so more to come on that front. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), another ‘wound wort’, stops bleeding and is especially effective in healing stitches and tears. Even if there’s no tears, yarrow is still helpful because it moves the blood and disperses bruising and inflammation. Matthew Wood says it can “actually help the arteries suck up blood that has flowed out through a torn vessel into the tissues” (70). Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is a creeping, evergreen, berry-bearing member of the Ericaeae family. The leaves are very antiseptic with an affinity for the genito-urinary system. I first became familiar with this plant while researching herbs for bladder infections. Tannin-rich uva ursi helps heal the skin by tightening the tissues and discouraging infections (75, Earthwise Herbal).
There are a variety of herbs that can be used to postpartum your sitz bath. Sea salt is a great addition, as are any astringent, tonifying herbs. If there is a lot of bleeding add a stiptic like Shepard’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), or if there is a over-relaxed state, add astringents and tonics like Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) or cranesbill (Geranium maculatum).
Here is another herbal sitz bath I heard about from Mary Bove, ND from a 2009 lecture on herbs for pelvic congestion. Although I was familiar with and had good success with herbal steams for genitourinary complaints (particularly pelvic congestion and inflammation), for some reason I never thought to do a sitz bath for pelvic congestion. Bove says these herbs are particularly beneficial for labial varicosities.
- Lady’s mantle
- White or red oak bark (Quercus spp.)
- Bayberry root (Myrica spp.)
- Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
For a while, I thought of sitz baths as a modality of delivering herbal medicine useful specifically to postpartum women. While postpartum sitz baths are indeed incredibly useful in that way, it is not the only application of sitz baths. There are so many genito-urinary complaints that sitz baths can be useful for, but what about the other areas of the body that are immersed in a sitz bath? Could digestive problems be comforted with sitz baths; what about the lower vertebrae and pelvic bones? Oh the possibilities…
Summer has past its peak, but the flowers are still blooming. Some, like the California poppies, are blooming for a second time. Now is the perfect time to see what is available for homemade flower essences. Making flower essences is surprisingly simple; the brunt of the “work” is done by the plant that has flowered and the sun that distills the essence.
Midmorning on a sunny day, start the process. Sit next to the plants you will be gathering, to offer gratitude and to focus your intent. Fill a small, plain glass bowl with filtered, fresh water. With large leaves acting to cover your palm of one hand and fingertips of the other, pick flower-heads just below the calyx and float them on the surface of the water, covering it completely. James Green suggests to eliminate the human vibration as much as possible; do not touching the water and do not cast a shadow on the mother essence (127). Use a different bowl for each essence.
Let the essence sit for 3-4 hours to absorb the sun’s rays. Lift the blossoms out of the water, again, avoiding to touching the water with your hands. Stems are handy tools to pick them out. Pour this mother essence into a clean jar and label.
From here, you can make a stock bottle. Fill a cleaned 1 ounce bottle with brandy, and add 2 drops (yes, 2!) of the mother essence. Shake, and label. The flower essences you buy in the store come in this form.
Almost there! One more step is necessary to make a dosing bottle, that is, an essence that you will take internally. Add 2 drops from the stock bottle into a clean, 1 ounce (or smaller) bottle. Add up to a total of 5 different essences to make a compounded flower essence. Fill the bottle 2/3 full with spring water, then top the rest off with brandy to keep the essence fresh. Label, shake, and use.
The general dosage of the dosing bottle is 4 drops 4 times a day. Add the drops to a glass of water, or place directly in the mouth.
Most people are familiar with English Bach Flower Remedies, which are widely carried at natural food stores. But remember, flower essences can be made from any, yes, any flower. There are North American wildflower remedies, Australian remedies, flower essences made from endangered woodland plants, and so on. Flower essences are handy for any time you wish to address the emotions and spirit behind the physical ailments. I have found regular use of an essence for a week or more to be most effective, although even a single dose may make a notable difference. When taking flower essences, like herbal remedies, emotional symptoms can change and morph rapidly, so assess and make changes to the remedies as needed.
Many people ask me, “how are the meanings for flower essences derived?” The meanings have not been derived as much as the inherent qualities of the flowers have been observed throughout the years. Feel free to experiment with observing your own meanings of flowers essences; notice which flowers you are drawn to and ask yourself “why”. Prepare and take a flower essence, and mindfully note the emotional reactions that occur after receive a dose. If desired, study the established meanings found in the many quality references that are available. In some ways, I think learning flower essences is a bit like learning the tarot; sometimes you know exactly the meaning, sometimes you make an educated guess, and other times you have no idea. At Sage Mountain we chose our flower essences via pendulum dowsing; many of us picked essences that were perfect for our situations. Below are a few garden flowers essences as described by the Flower Essence Society.
California Poppy Eschscholzia califonica “Positive Qualities: Finding spirituality within one’s heart, balancing light and love, developing an inner sense of knowing. Patterns of imbalance: Seeking outside of oneself for false forms of light or higher consciousness, especially through escapism or addiction.” California Poppy is useful as a remedy for people susceptible to “dazzling phenomena” like psychedelic drugs, charismatic teachers, sensationalized “pure” diets, religious cults, glamour, fame, and other enticing psychic experiences outside of themselves.
Basil Ocimum basilicum “Positive qualities: Integration of sexuality and spirituality into a sacred wholeness. Patterns of imbalance: Polarization of sexuality and spirituality, often leading to clandestine behavior or marital stress.” People in need of basil will feel a polarity between spiritual purity and physical sexuality, often struggling to reconcile. Sexual activity can then be secret, “sinful”, an obsession, extramarital, or perverse, compulsive, and basil helps “the soul no longer feel compelled to separate them into opposing and destructive activities.”
Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria “Positive qualities: Emotional honesty, acknowledging and working with emotional pain, obtaining true inner peace. Patterns of imbalance: Anxiety hidden by a mask of cheerfulness; denial and avoidance of emotional pain, addictive behavior to anesthetize feelings.” In herbalism, agrimony is a specific when a person holds their breath due to pain, and also hides behind a facade of “everything is okay” when it is quite obvious it is not.
Angel Trumpet Datura candida “Positive qualities: Spiritual surrender at death or times of deep transformation; opening the heart to the spiritual world. Patterns of imbalance: Fear of death, resistance to letting go of life and crossing the spiritual threshold; denial of the spiritual world.”
Yarrow Achillea millefolium “Positive qualities: Inner radiance and strength of aura, compassionate awareness, inclusive sensitivity, beneficent forces. Patterns of imbalance: Extreme vulnerability to others and to the environment; easily depleted, overly absorbent of negative influences, psychic toxicity.”
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare “Positive qualities: Decisive and goal-orientated, deliberate and purposeful in action, self-directed. Patterns of imbalance: Lethargy, procrastination, inability to take straightforward action; habits that undermine or subvert the real intentions of the Self.”
Cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus “Positive qualities: Integration of ideas and speech; ability to express thoughts with coherence and clarity. Patterns of imbalance: Unfocused, disorganized communication; overexcited speech, overwhelmed by too many ideas”.
Peppermint Mentha piperita “Positive qualities: Mindfulness, Wakeful clarity, mental alertness. Patterns of imbalance: Dull or sluggish, especially mental lethargy; unbalanced metabolism which depletes mental forces.”
Green, James. The Herbal Medicine-Makers Handbook.
Kaminski, Patricia and Richard Katz. Flower Essence Repertory.